Thursday, July 31, 2008


I could show you photo after photo of the flowers my mother has raised over the years, and tell you story after story of the gardens she and dad used to have, but these sunflower shots best illustrate her “green thumb”.

First, check out the crop she had back in ’95, then a shot from last year, and finally this year’s beauty.

Interestingly enough, she does nothing but plant the seed (seed from the same plant line) and things seem to happen. These two shots of the full plants were in different soils some 20 miles apart. Must just be her thumb!

It just occurred to me, that’s the same thumb she kept pressed against my head all those years, and yes, I grew big too!

Side note: That t-shirt is from the last time I was in Alaska back in '95!

Monday, July 28, 2008


I should have known by his calm confident demeanor, and the way he poured out knowledge of the wilds, that our Denali guide had done something special in Yukon or Alaskan sports lore, but I didn't. I just sat amazed as he educated the packed to capacity tour bus with fact after unknown fact!

Had Ron (my brother-in-law) not been the sports and outdoors nut that he is, we would have never known that he was Bruce Lee. “Bruce Lee?” I said when Ron told me.

No…not that Bruce Lee, the Bruce Lee (with cap below) that won the Yukon Quest in 1998!”

We had just discussed this year's winner of the Iditarod, Lance Mackey, over Alaskan Amber the evening before, or I may still have been in the dark.

Lance Mackey won the Iditarod on March 12, 2008; winning his second Iditarod in a row and the second time in a row he had won the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod in the same year!

I got involved in this tale quite innocently while fighting the bumps in the gravel road on the return trip to the hotel. I had just risked making us look gay by holding on to the back of the seat, with my left arm behind Ron, when something “yellowish” in the brush just 50 yards or less from the side of the road caught my eye.

BEAR,” I yelled, which is quite customary to let the guide know you have spotted wildlife. Sometimes the alert is “MOOSE” or just plain “STOP”, nonetheless, the driver will stop the vehicle and try to ascertain where the animal is.

In my case, Bruce stopped the vehicle, and looked up high on the mountain to his left. “Where,” he asked, and began backing up, “Up high?”

No, right down here next to the road, about 40 to 50 yards up,” I directed.

By this time others had spotted the two juvenile grizzlies playing in the tall bushes, and began yelling and pointing. “Good eye, good eye,” some yelled!

The attached photos will not show you a great shot of a Grizzly Bear. First, a normal digital camera has a wide angle lens that makes things look further away than does the naked eye. Second of all, the bus was rolling and rocking from side to side, which blurs any image. Third, I was shooting through the window…note the white cloudy areas in the photos.

However, the photos will point out where at least one bear’s head is and how difficult things are to see in a moving bus.

Bruce Lee stopped the bus just as the first bear came down the hill and stepped onto the road behind the bus. I was about to burst with excitement and anticipation of a great “bear” shot when some fool dropped his window, yelled at the bear to get its attention, then stuck his arm and camera out. That’s when Bruce made the bus lurch forward and about 200 yards further down the road!

Immediately, 6 or 8 people, all from New Jersey (I’m just saying) began screaming obscenities at Bruce and giving him the bird! There was even an 11-year old girl saying the f-word!

Everyone was just pissed at not getting the “bear” money shot, and I have to admit I was too. However, my anger was focused on the person/s with their heads and arms out the windows! Man…that would have been some shot to bring back to you, but it was not to happen.

In defense of Bruce, he did the right thing. After driving around to other side of the valley, and letting us watch the two grizzlies romp down the slope and out onto the alluvial plane, some quarter of a mile away, he stopped the bus. He then slowly, calmly, and eloquently laid out his position.

Grizzly Bears in Denali are treated unlike other bears in National Forest or other National Parks. They have little interaction with humans, except in the backcountry. No food is taken off any of the buses and no trash cans are placed anywhere. Guides do not allow bus loads of city-folk to wave wildly or scream at bears. The reason is this, if you meet a grizzly, the first thing you do is raise your arms and yell out at him/her. The point is to make yourself appear larger than you are. If grizzlies get used to crazy people waving their arms and yelling at them from buses, then the bears think, “Oh, I’ve seen that before!

Guides try to minimize all contact with humans…encounters should be brief. You can look all you want from a distance, or from inside a closed vehicle, but not up close using gestures and noises that should only be used during an encounter on the trail.

Thanks Bruce Lee for teaching us a valuable lesson.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


I’ll have to say that I did not find fault with the plane ride from Knoxville to Atlanta and on to Vancouver, but the added 5 or 6 hour flight from Anchorage to Seattle on the return trip, tacked on to the 7 hours on to Atlanta, and the 25 minutes to Knoxville, just about drove me over the edge!

I remember stepping to the edge twice before in my time and both of them were in Vietnam, when I “locked and loaded” on one smart ass F-4 pilot and again on two inconsiderate aircraft mechanics and their big bright ass light! This time, I’m not sure who was in danger, but I knew that if I didn’t move soon I was going to scream, and maybe even run through the plane like an idiot!

A scream on an airplane will land you in jail these days, but the thought of a roomy 8 by 10 cell began to sound wonderful to me!

All this anxiety and claustrophobia was instilled in me by my mother. Years ago, when dad worked out of town, I used to sleep with mom…why, I don’t know, especially after the second or third time she would grit her teeth and say, “Mushy (not his real name)! If you move one more time I’m going to beat the living day lights out of you! I was just trying to get comfortable…so what if it took 6 to 10 turnovers!

To look at my 100 pound momma today, you’d never know what a mean woman she used to be to me!

The flight from Seattle to Atlanta, some 7 hours long, began with me seated between two healthy gals, both of their legs touching me and forcing me to sit straight up. I learned to sleep laying back in a recliner after my shoulder surgery, but I can’t sleep one wink sitting straight up! I kept shifting my legs around, the part that makes me 6’ 1” long, but there was no way to make them or me comfortable.

Once in a while I found a position that I thought I could live with, but that feeling didn’t last long. Soon I was again searching and fidgeting! First I put one leg out and stretched it all about, then I put my other leg out and pulled the other one back, then I pushed my right hip out and then the left hip out and shook it all about!

Finally, I lay my head forward and tried to rest my head on the headrest of the person in front of me. I actually nodded off for about 1 minute when Judy (on my left) coughed! I jumped as if the engines had backfired.

Then I became conscious of my arms…the lady on my right was touching my arm and forcing me to pull it further back against the seat back. I had to keep an eye on her too because before she dozed off she had told me about her lung problems and how she needed oxygen when she slept. So, I kept looking over to see if she was turning blue! I probably shouldn’t have cared, but even if she died she was too large to stuff down out of my way!

I had to move and move I did, only in little slow deliberate motions, so as not to elicit a “IF YOU MOVE ONE MORE TIME…” from either side of me.

Somehow, I made that leg of the trip and unfolded in the terminal in Atlanta strangely waving my arms and kicking out my legs to again feel them move freely as they are supposed to do. I’m sure security kept their eyes on me though…must have been strange to see a fat man dancing down the moving sidewalk!

Now, I know, it’s just a 25-minute flight from Atlanta to Knoxville, but it was the end of those few minutes that I thought would never come!

You are supposed to check your carry-on luggage on small commuter flights…that is if you want some room. I did not want to part with my carry-on, so I tried stuffing it in the overhead…it wouldn’t fit, so I tried pushing it under the seat in front of me. It didn’t want to go there either! At this point I should have taken the bag back up front and checked it like they asked us to do…but NO! Instead I pushed and pushed and then placed my feet over the end sticking out so the flight attendant couldn’t see it.

I made it for about 10 minutes, including the 5 minute taxi time before we took off!

I shifted both feet to one side then up under the bag, but the blood was soon cut off in my toes. I repositioned them to the other side…nothing different there. I then pulled one leg up and placed my foot upon a 3-inch ledge, but soon my right leg was asleep!

I finally got one foot over under the seat in front of Judy, but it was awkward and driving me crazy.

I’m sure the discomfort was enhanced by not sleeping for over 24-hours, but to me I would have been happier in a dungeon somewhere being stretched on the rack! I needed to move and in a few more minutes, I thought to myself, everyone on this friggin’ plane is going to understand that!

Even the pilot announcing that we were descending and that we would soon be on the ground did nothing to ease my pain. Time seemed to slow down and the cabin began to get smaller and warmer! Damn, I’m going to scream, I thought if I don’t get off of this plane!

In one last desperate attempt to get some room and relief, I jerked my foot back from in front of Judy, mashing one of her toes! I was so stressed by then that I didn’t even care at the time…something had to give!

Once in the terminal, I again began the strange dancing in an attempt to re-inflate my folded extremities. Ron and I walked to the “long-term” parking area while the Dragons waited with the bags. I kept prancing like some Tennessee Walking Horse until I finally released all the anxiety that had built up over the long night.

I finally got into bed some 3 hours later, and I spread out and moved my legs freely back and forth several times from side to side, feeling the freedom. It felt so good!

Had I been a skinny man, I may have had the room a human being needs in order to be comfortable. God, it will be a long time before I get on another plane…and even then it will not be over 3 hours in duration!

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Well, there I was...climbing McKinley when...seriously, if you are interested at all in my Alaska photographs, they have been posted on FLICKR...CLICK HERE to be taken to the thumbnail page. To see large formats of the shots, double click each shot. The thumbnail page presents the shots in chronological order of the trip.

Any future posts will be based on comments left here or at Flickr!

The trip is pretty self-explanatory at Flickr, so I don't want to bore you with "blow-by-blow" account. If you have questions, then I will try my best to answer them.

We had a ball...hope you enjoy the photos!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Yep, we made it back after 11 days or so in Canada’s British Columbia and Yukon Provinces, and the state of Alaska. The average temperature was probably around 55, with Fairbanks being the warmest at 72.

What a trip! The only bad part was the flight home, but I’ll save that for later.

I just wanted to let you know we were home safe and show you a photo of the tour group we lived with for the duration of the adventure north. There were only 25 of us, counting the cute little tour director from Birmingham, Alabama, which made it very roomy on the bus and other excursions. We all loved Emily, and I’ll show you her photo later and tell you some stories about her and others.

Neena (peeping around Bob) and Ron are under the “O” and Judy and I are just to the right of the “N”. That’s Bob standing in front of Neena (his hand on his leg) and Linda, his wife, is stand in front of Ron (black jacket). They were a hoot and we hung with them most of the time, especially when beer was involved! They are from Oregon and Bob and Ron had much in common – both being outdoorsmen – and Linda was like one of the Dragons instantly!

The trip included a stay in Vancouver, B.C., and a 3-day cruise to Skagway, with a stop over in Juneau on the way up the coast. From Skagway, we made the trip up over the White Pass in a vintage locomotive to Whitehorse in the Yukon. All along the way we were educated on the 1898 Yukon Gold Rush and the “Stampeders” that braved, survived, and died along the way. Hundreds died following their dream of sticking a shovel into the ground and striking it rich. Turned out that most of the gold and claims had already been found or staked! How they made it in -20 to -60 degree temperatures I’ll never understand. Not many would make it today with our modern GORE-TEX® and insulated clothing.

From Whitehorse we boarded a large Holland tour bus and made our way on to Dawson City! We then boarded a dual hull jet boat and made the 102 miles to Eagle, Alaska, where we met up with another tour bus to Chicken Creek, and on to Tok.

From Tok we trekked on by bus to Fairbanks and finally by glass top train the Denali/McKinley National Park.

Finally, the train took us on a 7-hour trip to Anchorage where we boarded our flight home. That’s where the irritation for me began!

I also wanted to let you know that I have just posted my trip “bar and pub” shots on Flickr. I especially wanted you to note the “Sourtoe Cocktail” shots!

In Dawson, there is a place called the Downtown Hotel and inside is a great two-level bar, complete with vintage piano and décor. If you venture into this bar any time between 9 and 11PM you will find Captain Dick/Tom (one or the other) sitting in a corner registering “sourtoers!” You become a member by first buying a shooter of your favorite poison and then giving the Captain $5. He then swears you into the club by reciting a pledge and saying, “You can drink it slow, or you can drink it fast, but your lips must touch the toe!”

The “toe” is real! However, it’s dead so it can’t hurt you and it has been baptized in so much liquor by now that no germ could survive! But the “Sourtoe Cocktail” is ready when the Captain drops the toe into your shooter! One gulp and a kiss of the toe against your upper lip and you’re inducted!

Well, I have 689 photos to work on, so I’ll be back soon with more tales! Keep checking…the best of my photos will be posted there sometime within the week.

I won’t lie, it’s good to be home and in my own bed, but it was a wonderful trip!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

JULY 4TH 2008

As tradition has it, the “Knights & Dragons” (minus 3) gathered at Charlotte and Gary’s to celebrate this particular holiday.

Charlotte and Gary recently purchased a great travel home, and Gary and Steve have been busy building an extension on Gary’s outbuilding to protect the “home” when not on the road. Gary teased Steve about drinking one beer per nail, post, or cross-piece the day before, and telling about him saying, “One nail…one beer!

I’m sure they will get it done within the next few days, but supervisor Gary has his hands full! They start back to work tomorrow.

The travel home is the perfect size for a couple, about 30 to 35 feet long, one large bedroom, separate shower and toilet areas, extendable dinning and living room area, gas stove and refrigerator, microwave, stereo system, rear view video camera, 75 gallon tank, and many other features. The two will have a ball visiting parks and campgrounds across the country.

A walk back to the house took us by Gary’s muscadine vineyard. It’s from these lush vines that he gets the main ingredient for his tasty wine! The vines are full and watered by his drip-system. We can’t wait for the harvest!

Inside the Dragons were trying to catch their breath from all the laughing. When we left them they were lounging on the porch, but the heat drove them inside, again separating us into Knight and Dragon factions! We enjoyed music, beer, and cigars in relative peace!

Gary had already dry rubbed and prepared the ribs inside before we arrived, so all that remained was lathering them up with sauce and heating them on the grill. Talk about good…and with the corn-on-the-cob, green beans, potato salad, and rolls, it was wonderful! Of course we followed that up with banana pudding, or cake and ice cream! It’s not wonder we look the way we do…happy!

Around 7:30 Steve ran out of beer, so we naturally had to break it up!

Sure hope you and yours had an enjoyable 4th of July too!

Friday, July 04, 2008


Luckily we tend overlook, or at least forget, that Lady Liberty came from France!
She’s just All-American to most of us!

Hope she is as proud of me as I am of her.


Tuesday, July 01, 2008


Number One Times Square is the most viewed building in Times Square, both in person and on TV, and although the building is completely vacant, makes more money than any other building in New York City! It’s the long slender building above which "The Time Ball" drops to welcome in New Year’s Eve each year!

The building was built between 1903 and 1905 as a home for the New York Times, and it remained so until 1961. Since then, although the building was brought up to city construction code in 1996, it remains tenantless. However, it rakes in millions of dollars per day from the advertising clinging to its outer walls! In 2000, it was estimated that the building's 26 signs bring in monthly rent checks ranging from $100,000,000 to $250,000,000.

Click on the photos to enlarge and see who is advertising in the Times Square area!

That’s right, on my recent visit, I was given free advertising space just because I’m MUSHY!